Well, this has certainly been a year for the books as we’ve learned just how easily our world can collapse when met with unexpected challenges.
But maybe we’ve also learned a few good things too like how to adapt and approach life’s unpredictability with a different mindset.
One example is, in this digital age, many folks have found they can work from anywhere and it’s opening up a whole world of opportunities for those ready to make big changes.
WFH (Not to be confused with ‘WTH’)
Most of the people I know and work with are completely dependent on technology in order to do their jobs.
And this means many of us are able to work from home when the kids get sick, when we wake up on Friday with a headache because we started the weekend a little early, or have to wait for the cable guy to come fix something. (He’ll be there between 7am and 7pm, give or take.)
It’s great to know you can work from anywhere.
It’s also not great to know you can work from anywhere.
I’ve worked from home for years and I love it. I’m far more productive. I don’t like to be distracted by chit-chat and everything is set up just the way I like it.
I’ve worked from the dock of a lake, on long road trips from the passenger seat, and on airplanes.
But I also have a preschooler who thinks it’s fun to climb on the back of my chair and put me in a chokehold (aka “hug”) while I’m on a conference call. And I’ve had to maintain my composure as the dog vomited up last night’s trash right under my chair.
But with kids and pets, a mom who likes to chat because I’m “at home,” toilets overflowing 15 minutes before a last-minute deadline, and teenagers screaming, “Where is my work uniform?” while I’m on a Zoom meeting – let me tell you, it’s not always a picnic.
Truly working from home with your kids is not for the faint of heart – as many parents have discovered in recent months. It’s why ABC stores are considered essential businesses.
Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
And now, many companies are seeing the benefits of allowing employees to work from anywhere. With shutdowns and panic, telework has been a lifesaver.
But being productive outside an office environment really depends on the individual. Some people have a lot of trouble getting motivated – and wearing pants – when they’re not at their workplace.
Others have found there’s no turning back once they experience the work-from-anywhere lifestyle.
The Digital Nomads
Now, I mostly stay in my home office for work because, you know, kids and pets and overflowing toilets.
But for the carefree and single with the talent and skills, being a digital nomad can offer some incredible experiences.
It’s been tragic to see our economy collapse because of service-based industries shutting down over this pandemic.
And many of these people are switching gears to make sure they have work if this type of thing ever happens again.
So-called “work tourism” appeals to many different demographics.
It’s becoming popular with the millennials who post selfies on Instagram at the beach with a laptop and daquiri in their hands. We know they wouldn’t cut it in a 9-5 office job anyway.
It’s becoming popular with older folks (like me) who spent many years in an office and enjoy their jobs, but also want to see what’s out there in this big world of ours.
It saves companies money on workspace and office supplies, not to mention the bickering when someone forgets to label their lunch and finds it suspiciously missing.
And several countries are now offering perks to lure in those who can work from anywhere – well anywhere that has internet, which is pretty much everywhere.
These countries are jumping on the digital nomad trend to bring tourism money into their countries. They’re easing any former restrictions and marketing their assets.
Barbados is one of the big ones because, of course, a Caribbean island would be the first choice for many of us!
Their work visa program is called Barbados’ “Welcome Stamp” and allows workers to visit for up to a year once they apply.
White sands and the soothing sound of waves in the background definitely sounds better than children fighting, dogs gagging, and toilets glugging.
If you want something a little less touristy, Estonia is offering “nomad visas” for up to a year with 90 days of travel across neighboring countries. They too have an application process, but a reasonable cost of just over $100 to apply.
The only kicker here is that they are not just opening their doors to any would-be social media influencer or video game junkie.
You actually have to prove you’re working and earning a sustainable wage (remember, they are inviting you to spend your money on them, not the other way around), and you must be employed by an actual company to prove you’re legit.
It seems they’ve got enough freeloading going on in Estonia, because one of their main reasons for offering work visas is to increase their own work population.
If neither of these locations “float your boat,” a company called Coboat sees the potential of work tourism and offers around-the-world sailing adventures for freelance workers.
The best part? You only pay what you can.
Now, this sounds a little too good to be true, and you may end up walking the plank if you lay around contributing nothing – but it’s worth looking into.
There are several other companies hitching their wagons to the idea of promoting tourism to digital nomads, and there’s a surprising amount of information online for those considering this lifestyle.
This is for me! Where do I sign up?
If this sounds like your ideal situation, then do your research!
There are certain job skills more suited to finding a good fit in the digital nomad world of employment.
Programmers, linguistic experts, and freelance writers, vloggers, and bloggers are the top professions for finding sustainable work abroad.
Companies like FluentU are hiring freelancers who are fluent in multiple languages (hence, their name) to write and blog about their travels for online subscribers all over the world.
Virtual Vocations and We Work Remotely are some of the first job-hunting sites launched to help freelancers and would-be remote workers make connections to find their out-of-office dream location.
And it pays – literally – to make sure you have all your bases covered before you take that first step towards a digital nomad life.
Are you willing to give up security and a home base, even for a year? If so, what are you going to do with the stuff you leave behind while you’re gone?
It’s more than just hopping on a plane and working on the beach. You may need to rent out your home, make sure you have contracted, stable work, and follow all the guidelines of your chosen nomadic site.
Ask questions, the most important being, “How good is your internet access?” because a digital nomad who cannot connect to the internet is just a nomad on the brink of homelessness in a foreign land.
Look deep within yourself and do some soul-searching about whether or not you could be disciplined enough to focus on work, meet deadlines, and be productive while laying on the beach or sailing across the ocean.
The easy-going, low-key, free-spirits out there who would love to live the life of a digital nomad are also the least likely to make a successful living doing so.
It seems like it would take a whole lot of discipline — even more discipline than allowing the toilet to flood just so you don’t miss your deadline.
But if you’re free of family ties and have the dedication to work, then by all means, go for it.
There will be challenges, but also wonderful travel experiences for those who embark on this journey of a lifetime.
Just do me a favor and send me a beautiful postcard. I’ll need it after another Zoom meeting spent trying to discreetly wipe dog vomit off my feet.